December 28, 2016

WWE - Raw Greatest Hits: The Music (15th Anniversary) (2007)

*This pressing contains 2 bonus tracks including "Slow Chemical" & "Line In The Sand" by Finger Eleven & Motörhead. Contains 17 tracks total.

Country: U.S.A
Genre: Theme Music, Alternative Metal, Heavy Metal, Hip-Hop
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© 2007 Columbia Records
AllMusic Review by Mark Deming
World Wrestling Entertainment's best-known wrestlers all make their way to the ring with the right arena-rocking anthem backing them up, and this album collects 19 songs made famous as theme music from WWE's broadcasts. WWE Presents Raw Greatest Hits: The Music features songs associated with John Cena ("The Time Is Now"), the Rock ("If You Smell"), Stone Cold Steve Austin ("I Won't Do What You Tell Me"), the Undertaker ("Rest in Peace"), Evolution ("Line in the Sand"), Rey Mysterio ("[619]"), and more.

tags: wwf, wwe, raw greatest hits, the music, 15th anniversary, 2007, flac,

December 24, 2016

Michael Jackson - HIStory: Past, Present & Future (Book I) (1995)

Country: U.S.A
Genre: Pop
Label Number: E2K 59000 S3
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             *****
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© 1995 Epic Records
AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine
Michael Jackson's double-disc HIStory: Past, Present, and Future, Book I is a monumental achievement of ego. Titled "HIStory Begins," the first disc is a collection of his post-Motown hits, featuring some of the greatest music in pop history, including "Billie Jean," "Don't Stop 'Til You Get Enough," "Beat It," and "Rock with You." It leaves some hits out -- including the number ones "Say Say Say" and "Dirty Diana" -- yet it's filled with enough prime material to be thoroughly intoxicating. That can't be said for the second disc, called "HIStory Continues" and consisting entirely of new material -- which also happens to be the first material he released since being accused of child molestation. "HIStory Continues" is easily the most personal album Jackson has recorded. References to the scandal permeate almost every song, creating a thick atmosphere of paranoia. If Jackson's music had been the equal of Thriller or Bad, the nervous, vindictive lyrics wouldn't have been quite as overbearing. However, "HIStory Continues" reiterates musical ideas Jackson had been exploring since Bad. Jackson certainly tries to stay contemporary, yet he has a tendency to smooth out all of his rougher musical edges with show-biz schmaltz. Occasionally, Jackson produces some well-crafted pop that ranks with his best material: R. Kelly's "You Are Not Alone" is seductive, "Scream" improves on the slamming beats of his earlier single "Jam," and "Stranger in Moscow" is one of his most haunting ballads. Nevertheless, "HIStory Continues" stands as his weakest album since the mid-'70s.

tags: michael jackson, history, past present and future, book 1, 1995, flac,

Michael Jackson - Forever, Michael (1975)

Country: U.S.A
Genre: Pop, R&B
Label Number: 530 280-2
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© 1975-1989 Motown Records
AllMusic Review by William Ruhlmann
Michael Jackson's fourth and final new studio album for Motown came nearly two years after its predecessor, Music and Me. It was a more mature effort for the 16-year-old singer but lacked the contemporary dance style that had given Jackson and his brothers a career rebirth with "Dancing Machine" the year before. The album did spawn two minor chart singles, "We're Almost There" and "Just a Little Bit of You" (both produced by Brian Holland of the Holland-Dozier-Holland production team), and a third track, "One Day in Your Life," would chart as a reissue six years later. But though Jackson sang appealingly, the arrangements were noticeably similar to many older Motown charts, and there was little here to hint that, four years hence, on his next solo album, Off the Wall, Jackson would emerge as a major star.

tags: michael jackson, forever michael, 1975, flac,

Kylie Minogue - Kylie (1988) ☠

Country: Australia
Genre: Pop
Label Number: HFCD 3
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© 1988 PWL Records
AllMusic Review by Chris True
While the production values on Kylie's debut are dated at best and the tunes are nothing but standard late-'80s Stock-Aitken-Waterman bubblegum, there are some rather endearing qualities to it. Firstly, she shows a lot more personality than the other Stock, et al. frontperson, Rick Astley. Secondly, her cuteness makes these rather vapid tracks bearable. Her cover of "The Loco-Motion" made only small waves in the U.S., but this was the album that launched her career as both pop star and icon in Europe.

tags: kylie minogue, kylie, 1988, flac,

December 22, 2016

Backstreet Boys - Never Gone (2005)

Country: U.S.A
Genre: Pop
Label Number: 82876-70534-2

© 2005 Jive Records
AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine
It's been nearly five years since the Backstreet Boys have released a new album, but as the all-too-literal title of 2005's Never Gone makes clear, they don't want you to call their fourth LP a comeback -- in their mind, they've been here for years. That's not strictly true, since all five members have disappeared from the charts, if not the tabloid headlines, since their 2000 flop, Black & Blue. While fellow teen pop icons like Justin Timberlake and Christina Aguilera had successful transitions into adulthood, while Jessica Simpson turned reality TV star and Mandy Moore turned genuine actress (for pity's sake, we will ignore Britney Spears' horrifying descent into white trash abyss), Kevin Richardson, Howie Dorough, and Brian Littrell all faded away as A.J. McLean suffered a very public addiction to various substances. Nick Carter also suffered at the hands of the tabloids, in large part due to a very stormy relationship with Paris Hilton, but he also had the distinction of being the only Backstreet Boy to deliver a solo album -- Now or Never in 2002 -- which meant that he was the only BSB with an ignoble flop to his credit, as well. Now or Never had the distinction of being an old-school teen pop album being delivered too far after the craze. Carter's peers were changing their stripes, but he stuck to the tried and true BSB formula and was punished by the fickle public accordingly. Given that public humiliation, it shouldn't come as a surprise that Carter and the other Boys are wise enough to try something new on Never Gone: they've abandoned the teen pop of the late '90s for anthemic adult contemporary that sounds a bit like Bryan Adams circa 1990. It's not a reinvention as much as a lateral move, shifting from one kind of pop that's not selling to another that's not selling, but to their credit, Backstreet Boys acquit themselves reasonably well here. First of all, there's a bit of pleasure in hearing a group throw itself into the big, resolutely square sound of '90s adult contemporary, since nobody else is doing this sound in 2005, but also it fits the group well, particularly Carter, with his newly raspy lead vocals. Second, this is by and large a well-made record, with a handful of standout tracks, notably the first single "Incomplete," the John Ondrasik-written "Weird World," which is a lot more fun than any Five for Fighting tune, the Max Martin-helmed "Just Want You to Know," and "Lose It All," which bizarrely and appealingly sounds like an MOR version of an Oasis ballad. Although the rest of the record is essentially well-made filler, it does sound good; this is one time that a pop record benefits by having a different production team for nearly every one of the album's tracks, since the sound of each tune is just different enough to keep things interesting yet unified enough to make it pleasant background music. This is all enough to make Never Gone a solid adult contemporary album, which will please both BSB diehards and the dwindling ranks who wish that the glory days of Jon Secada never ended, but its relative strength does highlight one problem with the album: this kind of music doesn't sound quite as convincing when delivered by a group of guys as it does by one singer. If Never Gone had been released as Nick Carter's second solo album or A.J. McLean's first, it would have felt more genuine, since these (marginally) more mature songs of love and relationships would have more resonance sung by a solo singer instead of a pack of guys. But that's nitpicking, because even if it never sells as well as Millennium did at the turn of the century, Never Gone is at the very least a successful musical makeover from the onetime teen pop kings. [Never Gone was released in several editions, including a copy-protected CD that will not play on your computer without installing a separate media player, and a DualDisc, containing a CD on one side and a DVD on the other. The DualDisc has a 5.1 mix version of the album on the DVD side, along with the video for "Incomplete" as well as a brief documentary about the making of the video for "Incomplete." The CD side of the DualDisc may not register on some computers.]

tags: backstreet boys, never gone, 2005, flac,

Witchcraft - The Alchemist (2007)

Country: Sweden
Language: English
Genre: Doom Metal, Psychedelic Rock
Style: Traditional Doom

© 2007 Candlelight Records
AllMusic Review by Greg Prato
Black Sabbath is rightfully considered a trailblazer of the doom metal genre. But the next group in line to carry the doom torch was Pentagram, a U.S. band well versed in their Ozzy and Iommi-isms. While Pentagram never scaled the heights that the Sabs did, they certainly left their mark on countless subsequent bands throughout the world -- especially Sweden's Witchcraft. On their third release overall, 2007's The Alchemist, the quartet continues attempting to turn the clock back to 1975 -- Magnus Pelander's vocal delivery is an awful lot like Pentagram's Bobby Liebling, while the music would provide a fine soundtrack to a high school stoner's basement party -- when the folks were out of town, the bong smoke was thick, and the black light posters were proudly on display. However, as with most doom metallists, quite a few bits have a certain familiarity to them -- case in point, "If Crimson Was Your Colour," which contains a riff reminiscent of Megadeth's "Symphony of Destruction," while "Hey Doctor" contains the same drum breakdown in the middle of Sabbath's Vol. 4 obscurity "Under the Sun/Every Day Comes and Goes." But the group also shows they aren't afraid of laying down a Wolfmother-esque groove from time to time, as evidenced by the opening of "Samaritan Burden." Doom metal continues to thrive in the early 21st century, as evidenced by the emergence of Witchcraft.

tags: witchcraft, the alchemist, 2007, flac,

December 19, 2016

Backstreet Boys - Backstreet's Back (1997)

*European pressing. 
Contains 11 tracks total.
Country: U.S.A
Genre: Pop
Label Number: 82876 53557 2

© 1997 Jive/Trans Continental Records
AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine
The Backstreet Boys finally achieved American success with their second album, Backstreet's Back. The reason for the sudden success had more to do with good marketing than the music itself, since Backstreet's Back is nearly identical to Backstreet Boys. Loaded with dance-pop and ballads, the album is as glossy as mainstream pop can possibly be. That slick production adds luster to the singles "Quit Playin' Games (With My Heart)" and "As Long as You Love Me," making them as irresistible as teen pop can be. There isn't anything else that really matches those twin peaks, but there's enough craft, hooks, and fun on the rest of the album to make it quite entertaining.

tags: backstreet boys, backstreets back, 1997, flac,

Backstreet Boys - Millennium (1999) ☠

Country: U.S.A
Genre: Pop
Label Number: 01241-41672-2R
☠: Selected by Lass
© 1999 Jive Records
AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine
The Backstreet Boys finally broke (and broke big) in America during 1998, as if by design. They had been Euro sensations for a couple of years, but it wasn't until Backstreet's Back was unleashed in the U.S. in 1997 that they had a presence in the States, and it was no small presence, either -- after selling over ten million copies, the album remained in the Top 40 on the eve of the release of its sequel, Millennium. And sequel is the appropriate word -- Millennium has no pretense of being anything other than an album for the moment, delivering more of everything that made Backstreet's Back a blockbuster. There's a familiar blend of ballads and dance-pop, a similar shiny production, a reliance on the Boys' charisma that brings to mind the debut. If Millennium were anything other than big, glossy mainstream pop, such calculation may be a little unseemly, but in this context, it can be rather fun. True, the album doesn't pack as much punch as its predecessor -- there's a number of good songs, but more filler than before, and the Backstreet sound isn't as fresh as it was the first time around -- but it does deliver what fans want: more of the same. And since there are singles as infectious as "I Want It That Way" and a handful of good ballads, that will be enough to satisfy anyone craving more, more, more.

tags: backstreet boys, millennium, 1999, flac,

December 18, 2016

Sisqó - Unleash The Dragon (1999)

Country: U.S.A
Genre: R&B
Label Number: 314-546 816-2

© 1999 Def Soul/Dragon Records
AllMusic Review by Michael Gallucci
By the end of his debut solo album, Dru Hill's finest singer, Sisqó, has beaten the same rhythmic pattern, which is churned in and out of nearly every song, into the ground. Loaded with whispered bedroom moans, which have become late-'90s R&B clichés, Unleash the Dragon is short on any real songs to justify the pointless replay of these familiar grooves. Only when he actually unleashes his inner dragon, like on the club thumper "Thong Song," does Sisqó sound at all like the ferocious soulman he fancies himself to be. There's also little distinction among the guest spots here (though Make It Hot's turn on the jittery "Got to Get It" offers some sparks). And once the beats -- which borrow heavily from the contemporary R&B playbook -- are programmed, there's little for Sisqó to do but coast along the grooves, with all the conviction and commitment of a soul robot.

tags: sisqo, unleash the dragon, 1999, flac,

December 16, 2016

NSYNC - Greatest Hits (2005) ☠

Country: U.S.A
Genre: Pop
Label Number: 82876 74637 2
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☠: Selected by Lass
© 2005 Jive Records
AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine
Hard to believe that *NSYNC released a mere three proper albums over the course of a mere three years in their reign as one of the two most-popular boy bands in the great teen pop boom at the turn of the millennium. Given their constant presence on the charts, on MTV, on the airwaves and on magazine covers, it seems like their time in the spotlight lasted much, much longer, but such mass multimedia saturation only gives the illusion of longevity and it doesn't give much of an indication of the durability of the group's music, either. Of course, pop music isn't necessarily meant to be durable -- it's meant to exist in the moment, and once that moment passes, the hit singles of a given day either wind up as classics that retain some of their initial power, or they become an aural snapshot of a given moment, a way to revisit a particular place in time. And nowhere is that better illustrated than on *NSYNC's first compilation, 2005's lean 12-song Greatest Hits. Appearing four years after their final album, 2001's Celebrity, Greatest Hits contains every one of their 11 non-holiday-themed Billboard Hot 100 singles, adding "I'll Never Stop" -- previously featured as a bonus track on certain foreign-market pressings of No Strings Attached -- to round things out. Since this has all the hits, along with surprisingly detailed liner notes from Chuck Taylor, this not only is a good overview and introduction to *NSYNC, but it's also their most consistent and enjoyable album since their proper records, like most teen pop records, were cluttered with filler. But that doesn't necessarily mean that their hits have stood the test of time. This collection proves that *NSYNC's music evokes a time and place -- the heady days of the Y2K roll-over, just before the stock market crashed, just before George W. Bush took office -- but it doesn't transcend their era. This is because the group not only doesn't have much on-record charisma, but their singles are constructed as records, existing entirely on the surface, lacking the backbone of a strong song. There are hooks scattered throughout here -- almost all arriving on the chorus, whether on propulsive dance numbers like "Bye Bye Bye" or on ballads like "Tearin' Up My Heart" -- but the tracks rarely, if ever, have the narrative momentum of a good song. This is not as great a trouble as it may seem -- after all, these singles were hits because of their sound, which is gleaming, attractive and proudly, even defiantly, lightweight. It may not be lasting, but it's a real pleasure for many listeners and anyone that wants to relive *NSYNC's glory years will find this satisfies their needs.

tags: nsync, greatest hits, 2005, flac,,

R. Kelly - Chocolate Factory (Limited Edition) (2003) ☠

 *Contains the "Loveland: E.P." as a bonus disc.

Country: U.S.A
Genre: R&B
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© 2003 Jive, Sony Records
AllMusic Review by Alex Henderson
R. Kelly was hardly a stranger to controversy in the early 2000s. In addition to being hit with 21 counts of child pornography in Chicago and 12 more in Polk County, FL, the beleaguered singer/producer faced various sex-related civil suits. All those scandals have, at times, overshadowed his music, which is regrettable because Chocolate Factory has a lot going for it. Emphasizing romantic slow jams, and not as ambitious or risk-taking as 1998's R. -- which is arguably Kelly's best, most essential release despite its own imperfections -- Chocolate Factory, like 2000s TP-2.Com, tends to play it safe. But that doesn't mean Chocolate Factory is without merit; what it lacks in ambition, it makes up for in terms of quality and craftsmanship. Many of the influences that have served Kelly well on previous efforts continue to serve him well on this 2003 release; influences that range from the Isley Brothers, Marvin Gaye, Al Green, Michael Jackson, and Stevie Wonder to Prince, Babyface, and hip-hop. All of those influences were noticeable on Kelly's '90s albums, and they are still noticeable on Chocolate Factory. Nonetheless, Kelly has always been his own man; that is especially obvious when he features Ronald Isley on "Showdown" (not to be confused with the Isley Brothers' 1978 recording). Hearing Kelly and Isley side by side, listeners can easily see how Kelly is able to draw on Isley's influence while projecting a firm, recognizable identity of his own. One hopes that in the future, Kelly will come out with some more albums that are as challenging as R.; even so, Chocolate Factory will go down in history as a solid and pleasing, if somewhat predictable, addition to the Chicagoan's catalog.

tags: r kelly, r. kelly, chocolate factory, liited edition, 2003, flac,

December 11, 2016

NSYNC - Celebrity (2001)

Country: U.S.A
Genre: Pop
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© 2001 Jive Records
AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine
*NSYNC is nothing if not literal. Last time around, they freed themselves from their manager and titled the record No Strings Attached. This time around, after that album moved millions of copies, they've released an album called Celebrity, none too subtly drawing attention to the fact that they're stars. That's right -- this is a trials-n-tribulations of fame album, in the grand tradition of Bad, Use Your Illusion, and In Utero, complete with a garish cover that's a cross between Sgt. Pepper and a Sammy video. The difference is, of course, that the boys have been thirsting for this attention since they were children, so they're entirely comfortable with their position as kings of teen pop, and they celebrate their celebrity. And, let it not be said that they're not clever, since "Pop" isn't just a defense of their music, it stands as a rallying cry for their fans. And that signals what is so right about the record too -- *NSYNC is self-aware, not just of their position in the pop world, but how to consolidate their strengths while pushing forward. Since time immemorial (or at least since 1987), any pop group rounds up hot producers before making a new record, but *NSYNC has found producers that accentuate different sides of their music, from Brian McKnight smoothly delivering JC Chasez's "Selfish" to the Neptunes' subtle harpsichord groove on "Girlfriend." Nobody sticks around for too long -- only Riprock and Alex G are granted two tracks, with lead SYNC Justin Timberlake manning the board for no less than three songs, more than anybody else on the record -- and that's a blessing, since it keeps the album moving. As soon as BT's "Pop" wraps up, we're in Rodney Jerkins territory for the skittering title track and, not long afterward, Max Martin returns with "Tell Me, Tell Me...Baby," just in case old-school fans are missing Martin's patented Euro-schtick. All this means, on at least a superficial level, is that it's the group's most varied album yet, but the emergence of Timberlake and Chasez as credible soulful singers and, yes, songwriters makes it their best album yet, and one of the best of the teen pop boom of 1999-2001 (and, if the first week sales of Celebrity are any indication, it will extend even longer).

tags: nsync, celebrity, 2001, flac,

December 06, 2016

NSYNC - No Strings Attached (2000) ☠

Country: U.S.A
Genre: Pop
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☠: Selected by Lass
© 2000 Jive Records
AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine
Prior to the release of their second album, *NSYNC split from their manager in a bitter dispute and signed with Jive, the kings of teen pop. For *NSYNC, the move provided them with an opportunity to, in the immortal words of George W. Bush, "define themselves," to prove that they were an independent unit -- hence the title No Strings Attached. To cynical critics, they very well might sound the same as ever, yet this really blows away their previous record. That much is clear from the storming lead single "Bye Bye Bye," a piledriving dance number with the catchiest chorus they've ever sang. However, the album isn't really just singles'n'filler; it actually is well sequenced and fairly balanced, much like the Backstreet Boys' Millennium or Christina Aguilera's album. Like those records, No Strings Attached pulls away from the standard dance-pop formula, strengthening it with harder street beats, electronica flourishes, ballads with some grit, and well-crafted pop tunes. Nobody is going to mistake this for Fatboy Slim, Beck, or TLC -- it's still lightweight teen pop. Yet, it's very good teen pop, managing to not only work well within its limitations, but to push it slightly while retaining its breezy, hooky identity. *NSYNC still can seem a little ordinary, lacking a truly charismatic punch à la Britney or Christina, yet they do deserve credit for shaking things up a little bit, since it's resulted in an effervescent, ingratiatingly cheerful album that's a vast improvement on the debut.

tags: nsync, no strings attached, 2000, flac,